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Children of the Recession: We Have to Act NOW to Save a Generation

I wept.

After not allowing myself, a former television reporter, to watch the news for weeks because I found the doom and gloom about the economy too stressful, I watched several CBS news clips from the Children of the Recession series online, and when I watched as an emergency room pediatric nurse practitioner showed the x-rays clearly depicting the multiple injuries of a young child — TWO broken arms, TWO fractured legs, I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.  And neither could the reporter on the story. 

There is a marked rise in child abuse in the country and it is being attributed to the stresses related to the economy.  But that is only one of the many ways that our most precious resource in this country is being harmed.   As you can see in other segments in the network-wide series by CBS, children are being harmed psychologically, they are not receiving the medical care they need, they are ending up homeless or separated from families.  This is not the life any of us dreamed of for our children, or for anyone’s children.

What are we going to do about it?

Yes, I said we.

Your children and my children may be in their warm beds tonight with healthy food in their bellies, but they are going to school with children who are not.  What are we going to do about it?

With one out of ten children not being able to get the medical care they need or delaying routine visits, a child near ours is sick and getting sicker.  What are we going to do about it?

With jobless rates around the country anywhere from 7% and higher, a child near ours has one, maybe two parents unemployed and is living in a house full of stress, worry, and maybe worse — violence.  What are we going to do about it?

Families are spread further apart, governmental support systems such as social workers, homeless shelters and state- or county-funded counseling programs have all suffered cutbacks — there are more problems and fewer safety nets.

Non-profit organizations, often dependent upon grants, individual donations and corporate sponsorships are all scrambling to survive as well.  They, too, are trying to help more, but with fewer resources.

As a society we have the ability to more connected than ever with every form of technology imaginable.  But are we using it to help this youngest generation through this tough time?  Are we using it to match needs with solutions?  All it takes is the right person at the right moment and you can change a child’s life.  Do it often enough, and you just may change an entire generation.

At a conference this weekend, I heard that my generation, Generation X, is characterized by a “belief in survival” and jaded by growing up in the shadow of nuclear weapons, divorce, AIDS, and crack cocaine.  What a legacy.  Let’s try to create something better for this generation.  Let’s not let their young lives be forever shaped by the economy, but rather teach them the lessons of compassion and community and doing the right thing.

Through my affiliation with the Silicon Valley Moms/DC Metro Moms, I was able to participate on a conference call with Katie Couric, senior producer Katie Boyle, producer Tony Maciulis, and Sonya McNair, VP of Communications.  During this call, she let us know CBS News (The Early Show, Evening, and Face the Nation) is shining a light on the issues, through a network-wide look at Children of the Recession this week as well as through weekly segments over the next several weeks.  When one blogger asked if she found the task depressing, she said, “I feel it is really important work and I feel there is not enough of this kind of journalism going on…  and I feel it is  higher calling for all of us and yes it is very upsetting and heart-breaking and depressing but the only way that we are going to get these families help is to expose the problem and so I think we feel like there is a higher purpose here and that is why I think we feel really motivated and excited.  I haven’t felt this proud of my work in a long time because we can have an impact.  And that is why we need your help — we can’t do it alone in this fragmented media culture, like my colon cancer work, it can’t be a one-shot deal, we have to keep pounding away at it and be committed to it and keep reminding people.  We’re doing something that ultimately will be impactful and hopefully, really helpful to people.”

I’m no longer a television reporter, and I’m certainly not as powerful as a national network, but what I, a mom and a blogger, can do is this, I will tell you of programs and initiatives as I know of them and either highlight them myself, or invite them to guest blog here.  You are also always free to post comments or email me about groups/initiatives/ideas you think should be put out there.   Will you join me, in looking for ways to help — small or large?   Will you help get out the word on the GOOD things that can happen in these turbulent times?

I hope so.  Because the next time I weep, I hope it is with joy.

—————

  • I know of two programs that are packing non-perishable “weekend lunches” for children who are on the free hot lunch program at school in Fairfax County — because these kids may not get lunches on weekends otherwise.  These two groups are working “under the radar” right now.  If you are interested in helping them, email me or post here telling me you are interested and I will contact you.
  • Louie’s Kids, which helps fight childhood obesity, is just $10,000 short of its goal to bring it’s successful Fit Club Program to a school in Alexandria.  Read about their compelling program and success and see if you know someone who can help them in the final stretch.  Duke University reports that with parents having to buy lower-cost foods, we may see a huge increase in childhood obesity.
  • The Junior League of Northern Virginia (of which I am a member and a leader, in the interest of full disclosure) focuses on helping children in Northern Virginia succeed.  We have many programs, including Back-to-School Health Fairs (immunizations, physicals and backpacks jam-packed with school supplies), an innovative My Life photography program and Kids Can character-based program in local homeless shelters, and the Kids in the Kitchen nutrition program to help fight childhood obesity.  We’re always looking for new members, community partners, sponsors, and donors.
  • Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter (of which I am on the Community Advisory Board), a Fairfax County shelter run by Shelter House, Inc. is always looking for volunteers, community partners, sponsors and donors.  This shelter has done amazing work in “rapid rehousing” for homeless families, but the need continues to grow in these tough economic times.
  • The faith-based community is “filling in the gaps” — look to your own faith home (church, temple, mosque, etc.) to see what they are doing and how you can get involved.

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Silicon Valley Moms Post and Round Up: http://www.svmoms.com/2009/05/silicon-valley-moms-group-katie-couric-children-recession.html

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Comments

  1. Both schools my children attend have “friends” groups, where requests for dinners, donations, car pool help, etc. goes out via email to the parents who are interested in helping. It is anonymous, of course, and you can choose to help on certain projects when you’re available to do so. I know that so far, one of these networks has kept two children in their after school program through donations and funded lunches for one other child through the end of the school year when the family couldn’t continue to pay. This is a great way to reach out just in your immediate community-and you can see the results right away!

  2. Susan, that is terrific! I really believe it will grassroots efforts like this will be key to making a difference in so many young lives.

    Kudos to every person willing to step in AND to every parent willing to say “I need help.” It’s not always easy to admit you need help.

  3. I’m so glad I got that question in at the end. Almost all of us have used her answer in our posts. It brings out the higher purpose that we are all responding to, and I think Katie’s personal thoughts drive that home for the readers. (Did you tape it? I’m going to link to this post within mine.)

  4. I did tape it — I have not yet transferred it to my computer (it’s a digital recorder and I’m just learning how to use it, as it replaced an old-fashioned microcassette recorder that bit the dust the night before the conference call). I will definitely add cross-links to posts within mine when the round-up is up! Thank you for asking that question. As a former reporter myself, I completely identified with what she had to say. I went into a long rant and deleted it b/c I decided it would make a great post for another day.

  5. This is just so sad, and the tragedies are so hard to confront. But your sharing of the conference call is amazing and helpful to many people, I’m sure.

  6. Thank you — even more amazing is how open you are in your blog post: http://losangelesstory.blogspot.com/2009/05/speaking-of-recession-with-katie-couric.html.

    It’s hard to be open when what’s on the news hits home, but we have if we are going to get people to see it’s not a “them” problem, it’s an “us” problem.

    One of CBS’s poll results showed the 60% of our families have been impacted by the recession in some way — obviously some in more devastating ways (homelessness) and some in more minor ways (giving up “extras”). That means MOST of us are feeling it. Frank, open discussion is the only way we’re going to get through this — it’s the only way we’re going to get the people with the problems together with the people with the solutions.

    Let’s keep the conversation going — bloggers, commenters, journalists — all of us.

  7. Kimberlyn Reetz says:

    As one of the, self-admittedly, jaded Gen-Xers who cringe at words like “volunteering”, “charity”, and “activism”, I found this blog great food for thought.

    I realized that I HAVE done a lot of “charity work”. We live in an area with a huge range of socio-economic diversity. There are kids playing in my neighborhood park whose parents are in jail, whose parents are illiterate, and on and on. My kids play with these kids…(boy doesn’t that result in some interesting conversations at home).

    My middle child’s best friend for several years (they met in kindergarten) was a little girl whose parents NEVER read her a bedtime story. I mean NEVER. Yet she was whipped with a belt if she didn’t get an A on her weekly spelling tests. That was the way her parents chose to instill a love of learning and nurture her natural curiosity. (Their home life got dramatically worse after the housing market dropped since the parents had made a little easy money in real estate but rapidly lost it all when the market slowed down.) She nearly always got an A but if she came across a spelling word in reading to me, she often had no idea what the word was! Her younger sister had Bratz dolls galore, but had never done a jigsaw puzzle. Turns out, she was really, really good at them. So I went to the local $1 store and bought about 20 of them. Her face lit up when I handed her a new box.

    Even when we started homeschooling, I made sure we kept inviting these girls over often. Last school year, we’d pick the sisters up from school every Thursday and take care of them until the parents got home from work often well after 10 or 11 pm. At least 6 or 7 times, they were just left with us until Saturday or Sunday. During these times we read stories, played games and just did the normal things that “normal” families do. The girls had chores just like mine and had to abide by the same rules.

    For that year, at least, they had someone to listen to them about their day, go over school papers one-by-one with them, read the first 2 Pippi Longstocking books to them, teach them to sew, play board games and card games and do puzzles with them. They BEGGED their parents to let them stay every single time they went home, even on the days I felt like I’d been really grumpy! It was both appalling and heartbreaking at once.

    I finally felt we needed to pull away from the relationship. Partly because my daughter and the older sister really didn’t have any common interests once they got past about 6. Also, the girls’ behavior was becoming increasingly disruptive. And the extended stays were coming closer together. I wanted to help but I wasn’t looking to adopt.

    This is when a good school program would have been wonderful (yes, one of those bureaucratic organizations I so resist!). After a full school year of weekly “charity” work, I was drained. At the time, I felt defeated. They were getting worse. Had our influence done any good? But now, I feel strongly that, at the very least, they got to experience the feeling of cuddling up with a Mommy figure to read a great story, struggle through learning a math concept with someone who CARED, and found some talents that may have never been discovered at all. (the older girl was a whiz with a needle and very artistic) They got to feel part of a real family (with all of our many faults and quirks!) who truly cared about them.

    These girls are by no means the only children who have become temporary members of our family. Not everyday, but reliably, year after year, there always seems to be some kid around who clearly needs a lift. I guess this is my “charity work” if you want to call it that. But it’s clear to me that there are PLENTY of opportunities to have a very real impact on kids who really need it. And after reading your article, I will be that much more conscious to respond to these opportunities. Sometimes, all you have to do is open your eyes, you door, your heart and “just say YES.”!!

  8. God bless you, Kimberlyn, for all you’ve done in your “non-bureaucratic” way. Kids (and even adults) need help in all forms, from formal interventions to neighborly help. Those warm moments in your home will be the moments those kids will hold in their hearts FOREVER. Much longer than any meal lasts in their bellies, though those are important, too.

    It can be as simple as the gift of time, the gift of interest, the gift of attention for one child in the neighborhood — or as complex as Louis launching an entire program or the Junior League sprouting chapters throughout the world — but each of us has the ability to make a difference, to live a life just a little bit greater than just our own. One form of help is not any more or less meaningful than another, for you do not know whose life you are changing — your one child you are impacting maybe tomorrow’s most important leader. Who knows? The impact is immeasurable at this point. It’s not just the size of the splash, but the reach of the ripples.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful and insightful comment!